“Those poor little kids are starving — anyone can see it in their faces! If somebody doesn’t do something, they won’t last another month!”
A nurse (Barbara Stanwyck) caring for two sickly children (Marcia Mae Jones and Betty Jane Graham) soon suspects that their alcoholic mother’s chauffeur (Clark Gable) is in cahoots with a corrupt doctor (Ralf Harolde) to kill the girls and steal their trust funds.
William Wellman’s racy pre-Code thriller is primarily notable for its refreshingly risque premise, and for featuring Clark Gable in one of his earliest non-leading, non-mustachioed roles (though he’s not really on-screen enough to make much of an impression). Stanwyck is appropriately feisty as a poor but determined young woman who refuses to stand by and allow her innocent young charges to die: in perhaps the best scene of the film, she shatters class barriers by barging upstairs into a private drinking party and proceeding to seriously berate the girls’ alcoholic mother (Charlotte Merriam) for failing to notice (or care) that her girls are dying; although we expect Merriam to eventually get self-righteous, she never does, instead simply devolving into ever-increasing dysfunction, and eventually collapsing on the floor. While the story ends happily, we never learn what happens to Merriam — a character who, just a few short years later, would certainly be made to pay in one way or another for her egregious lack of maternal devotion…
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Barbara Stanwyck as Lora Hart
- Joan Blondell as Stanwyck’s co-worker
- Plenty of sizzling pre-code attitude, dialogue, and scenarios
- Stanwyck mercilessly berating the girls’ mother for refusing to visit her dying daughter
Yes, for its status as one of Wellman’s most infamous pre-Code thrillers.